Top of her class

DHS Class of 2020 - Top of Her Class!
Posted on 05/14/2020
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DeSoto High School Class of 2020 valedictorian Tiffany Kalu is a wonder kid of sorts.

She is involved in everything from band, to math and science clubs and even finds time to organize fundraisers for worthy causes and serve as a youth elder at DeSoto Presbyterian Church.

A first-generation American whose family hails from Nigeria, Tiffany derives her inspiration, work ethic and tenacity from her family.

Tiffany received college acceptance letters from Harvard University, Duke University, Cornell University, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Southern California, Johns Hopkins University, as well as the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, University of Houston, and Texas Christian University along with over $2M in scholarship offers!

After writing countless college admissions essays throughout the fall, Tiffany participated in 11 college admissions interviews. Eventually, she became more comfortable with telling people who she was and what she aspired to do in this world. Through that process and exploring and researching each college’s programs and opportunities, Tiffany ultimately decided to attend Harvard, where she plans to major in engineering with an emphasis in complex materials.

“Originally, I was never going to apply (to Harvard) because I thought there was no chance of gaining admission,” said Tiffany. Following her mother’s encouragement, the 2020 DHS Valedictorian submitted the application and called it a day.

"My first interview ever was for Harvard, so that was pretty memorable,” said Tiffany. “The next month, I was contacted for a SECOND interview, which is pretty rare in the college admissions process and it was fantastic. Still skeptical, on March 26th, I opened the application portal to see confetti all over the screen telling me congratulations!”

In utter shock, Tiffany recalled thinking, “This is a school that people say they'll go to as little kids, and it was so surreal that I was granted the opportunity to attend.”

Still keeping an open mind and weighing her options, Tiffany continued to consider and evaluate a number of other institutes to which she was also accepted.

“Ultimately, I chose Harvard because of the opportunities and experiences it would provide me,” Tiffany said. “I have lived here in DeSoto my whole life, and I wanted to go out and spread my wings (because I'm an Eagle at heart). People from all over the world attend this wonderful institution, and I want to gain a worldwide perspective to take with me into projects and in the workplace. I wanted a place that would not only teach me how to become an engineer but give me intangible experiences that can't be taught in the classroom. Harvard will give me the freedom to discover other interests with great facilities, resources and world renown faculty. Also, Cambridge is very close to Boston, so I can get the college experience while still being able to experience city life.” 

Having attended DeSoto ISD schools since kindergarten at The Meadows Elementary school, where she was awarded the first day of school fire engine ride in second grade, Tiffany continued to excel throughout her educational advancement. 

Moving to Cockrell Hill Elementary in the third grade, Tiffany then transitioned to Curtistene S. McCowan Middle School and will now graduate from DeSoto High School with an Associate Degree from Cedar Valley College through DeSoto’s Early College High School. 

“My parents are originally from Nigeria,” she related.  “They came to America and had me and my sister in Dallas. I am very close with my family and I love them so much for all the support they have given me over the years.”

A born leader, Tiffany blossomed at DHS. Having played the bassoon since sixth grade, she continued with the DHS Eagle Band for all four years of her high school experience, was in the front ensemble for marching season, and received many band-related awards and honors, including Texas State Solo and Ensemble division 1 ratings (ensemble), division 1 ratings at the regional level for solos, and All Region Band member.  She also served on the leadership team for the past three years. She also participated in organization fundraisers such as the DeSoto Classic, majorette competitions and helped tutor and mentor younger band students at district middle schools.  

A practicing lifelong learner, Tiffany availed herself to summer enrichment opportunities. 

The summer going into my junior year, I attended the "Say STEM Camp" by Tapia Camps at Rice University. I was recommended by Mrs. Head, and the school sponsored the program. It was a week-long residential camp that covered topics in math, science, and engineering. My group received first place in visual communication of a STEM concept.”

The summer prior to Tiffany’s senior year, she attended the Summer Academy for Math and Science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a six-week residential program where she stayed on CMU's campus.

“I earned college credit for a calculus course, took a chemistry seminar and an intro to programming course,” said Tiffany. “I was a part of the chemical engineering project, where my group presented our explorations and findings at the closing symposium.”


Tiffany said those experiences opened her eyes to the world of engineering. They inspired me to look at problems in the world that need to be fixed, either on the micro or macro level. I hope to use my education at Harvard to not only become an engineer but become a person with a worldwide perspective.”

At DHS, Tiffany participated in the Math Honor Society since her sophomore year and served as president this year, helping with tutoring and organizing a Jeans Drive to donate jeans teens in need.  She was a member of the Spanish Honor Society since sophomore year, serving as treasurer during senior year. During her junior year, she was inducted into the National Honor Society and served on the DHS yearbook team during her sophomore and senior years.

I've received the SOAR award nearly every year since whatever grade they start giving them,” she mused. “And I had perfect attendance every year! I don't like missing school because you have to catch up. I would go even when I wasn't feeling the best.”

Tiffany describes her journey as a student and as a person, here in DeSoto, as challenging and yet rewarding.

“I've had to deal with the pressure that school brings, both academically and socially,” said Tiffany. “I have had to learn how to love myself, how to interact with others, how to handle schoolwork, basically everything under the sun.”

In addition to her many school activities, Tiffany also serves as a youth elder at DeSoto Presbyterian Church. She derives inspiration from her family’s tenacity in all endeavors that she has pursued.

“I am this year's undisputed Valedictorian, and I am blessed to be in this position,” Tiffany exclaimed with both excitement and humility.

Congratulations Tiffany!  Soar on proud Eagle!  #TogetherWeWill #2020NewEra